Malanda Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sp. (Malanda Rainbowfish)

A small undescribed and critically endangered rainbowfish found on the Atherton Tablelands of northern Queensland. 
Males are brownish-golden with narrow orange to brown stripes along the body. During the breeding season the colours intensify becoming bright golden-yellow with narrow red stripes and reddish soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins which may have black margins in breeding males. 
Females are silvery-brown with paler orange-brown stripes along the body.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2023, Melanotaenia sp. (Malanda Rainbowfish) in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Mar 2024,

Malanda Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sp. (Malanda Rainbowfish)

More Info


Endemic to the Malanda district of the southern Atherton Tablelands, north Queensland - in four small isolated upper tributaries of the North Johnstone River. 
Inhabits small fast-flowing cool streams at elevations between 650–800 m.


Males have narrow orange to brown lateral body stripes and an overall brown-golden sheen, intensifying during the breeding season to be bright golden yellow with thin red stripes and reddish soft dorsal, anal and caudal fins. All fins can be edged in black in breeding males.
Females are distinctly oval shaped with a triangular first dorsal fin, the body is silver-brown with paler orange-brown horizontal stripes.


Australian Society for Fish Biology (ASFB): Critically Endangered
Malanda Rainbowfish have been translocated to a series of farm dams and one suitable stream as "insurance" populations.
Due to hybridization with Melanotaenia splendida which is invading the streams, the Malanda Rainbowfish is its streams species is currently only known from four rapidly declining isolated populations.


The Malanda Rainbowfish has been confused with the Lake Eacham Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia eachamensis, and was previously considered to be synonymous with the Utchee Rainbowfish, M. utcheensis.


Bray, D.J. 2023

Malanda Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia sp. (Malanda Rainbowfish)


Brown, C., Hammer, M., Unmack, P. & Ebner, B. 2019. Melanotaenia sp. nov. 'Malanda'. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T123321483A123382516. Accessed on 08 November 2023.

Lintermans, M. 2016. Conservation Status of Australian Fishes – 2016. Australian Society for Fish Biology Newsletter 46(2): 142-144. (ASFB Threatened Fishes Committee Reports)

McGuigan, K., Zhu, D., Allen, G.R. & Moritz, C. 2000. Phylogenetic relationships and historical biogeography of melanotaeniid fishes in Australia and New Guinea. Marine and Freshwater Research 51: 713–723 (as Melantaenia sp. III). 

McGuigan, K.L. 2001. An addition to the rainbowfish (Melanotaeniidae) fauna of north Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 46: 647–655 (as Melanotaenia utcheensis in part).

Unmack, P.J., Martin, K.C., Hammer, M.P., Ebner, B., Moy, K. & Brown, C. 2016. Malanda Gold: the tale of a unique rainbowfish from the Atherton Tablelands, now on the verge of extinction. Fishes of Sahul 30(4): 1039-1054.

Zhu, D., Degnan, S. & Moritz, C. 1998. Evolutionary distinctiveness and status of the endangered Lake Eacham rainbowfish (Melanotaenia eachamensis). Conservation Biology 12: 80–93 (as Melanotaenia eachamensis in part).

Quick Facts

Conservation:IUCN Critically Endangered


Max Size:6.1 cm SL


Species Maps

CAAB distribution map